Aging causes changes in your cells, tissues, and organs because your body experiences wear and tear. This means that it takes more time for it to produce the essential nutrients that you need. Your dental health is among the parts that take the hit during aging. It includes your lips, gingiva (gum), teeth, soft and hard palates, tongue, and retromolar trigone.
For example, although your teeth are strong, biting, chewing, and grinding erode your enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth. It’s yellow in color, so your teeth can appear discolored with erosion. Furthermore, your gums peel back as you age and expose your teeth roots to bacteria, resulting in decay.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the effects of aging on your dental health, such as self-dentistry coupled with professional help from reputable clinics such as https://www.durangodmd.com/. Remember that oral health contributes to your self-confidence and ability to eat and speak. Hence, you should pick a dental facility with experienced staff and modern equipment.
It’s essential that you build a dental care routine early in life. Usually, dental health becomes less of a concern as you grow because of other health issues, like cardiovascular diseases and problems in mobility. But this shouldn’t be the case, as oral health influences your overall well-being and quality of life.
How Aging Affects Dental Health
Changes occur slowly over time in your body as you age. These affect the bones and tissues in your mouth, leading to various oral health problems.
The following are some ways age affects your dental health:
- As you age, your nerves get small, resulting in your teeth losing sensitivity.
- Age causes loss of taste and feeling in your teeth. You could make up for this by using more spices, resulting in burns in your gums and mouth sores.
- Dental cavities and plaque result in bad breath.
- Cells renew at a lower rate in your body, and dental wounds may take a long time to heal.
- Your bones become less solid and dense and can easily crack when you bite.
- Weakening of your dental bone structure causes uneven cheekbones.
- Tissues become less elastic and thinner, and your gums can quickly get burned or injured.
- Your teeth become loose.
Age makes your teeth susceptible to decay, cavities, and gum disease. Proper oral care and maintenance is one sure way to mitigate or avoid these risks.
Typical Dental Health Issues You May Face As You Age
Although health issues can occur at any stage in life, the fact is that these risks increase and occur more frequently as you age.
The following are the dental health issues that result from aging:
- Dryness: As you age, you easily suffer from dry mouth or xerostomia because of less saliva, which opens you up to mouth sores, swallowing, tasting, and chewing problems, yeast infection in the mouth, tooth decay, and gum disease. This can also result from any medications you use or other health conditions. Saliva is an essential part of your dental health. It secures your teeth from decay and keeps your gums healthy because of its antimicrobial components and minerals that help maintain the enamel.
- Change in teeth color: The color of your teeth changes due to the accumulation of food dyes over the years. Also, it can be due to the thinning of your enamel, exposing the dentin, which is yellowish.
- Wear and tear: Your teeth suffer from wear and tear as you age. They endure a lot throughout your lifetime, from the food and drinks you consume to your dental habits. Clenching, grinding, taking medications, dental work breakdown, and lack of flossing and brushing may also contribute to this wear and tear.
- Oral cancers: Oral cancers may start under, on, or at the base of your tongue, the gums, the floor of your mouth, and the throat. Like every other cancer, the risk of oral cancer increases with age. This can result from smoking, alcohol intake, use of immunosuppressants, and human papillomavirus.
- Tooth decay: Your teeth become prone to decay and disease as you age. Bacteria can cause harm to them if you aren’t keen on brushing and flossing. Heavy sugars also cause plaque build-up, eventually resulting in tooth decay.
- Root disease: As your gums recede with age, teeth roots become exposed and susceptible to bacteria build-up and diseases. This can cause tooth loss, and if not treated early, it could affect your jaw, resulting in an uneven jawbone.
- Smaller nerves: As you age, the nerves in your teeth get smaller, making your teeth less sensitive. Hence, your chances of suffering from poor oral health increase
- Thrush: The medications and drugs you use can affect your immune system and trigger the overgrowth of the fungus Candida albicans in your mouth.
- Denture-induced stomatitis: This is characterized by an inflammation of your mouth tissues. It can result from poor dental hygiene, ill-fitting dentures, or a build-up of the fungus Candida albicans.
- Gum disease: As stated earlier, the gums recede with age, and they pull away from the teeth. This exposes parts of the root surface, causing sensitivity to certain foods and changes in temperature. Also, you could suffer from gingivitis, the inflammation of your gum tissues resulting from the plaque on your teeth, and poor oral hygiene. This is uncomfortable and can also affect the bone that supports and surrounds your teeth, causing tooth loss and gaps between teeth.
It’s important to note that age doesn’t cause all these problems; it’s what you do with your teeth as time passes. Hence, to minimize the effects of aging on your dental health, be mindful of your daily care and maintenance routines. These include brushing, using mouthwash, minding the foods you eat, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly.
How To Protect Your Dental Health As You Age
It’d be best if you took preventive actions to keep your dental health in optimal condition even as you age. Here are some valuable tips you may follow:
- Schedule regular checkups with your dentist even when you don’t think you should.
- Drink water to hydrate your mouth.
- Regularly look for wounds or sores in your mouth and have it checked if you find any.
- If you use dentures, make sure you clean them every day.
- Use a lip balm and moisturizing mouth gel and spray to keep your mouth and lips moist.
- Use a night guard to prevent teeth from grinding.
- See a dentist when you notice a loose tooth or denture that no longer fits.
- Avoid snacks rich in sugar.
- Chew sugar-free gum regularly to stimulate saliva flow and avoid xerostomia.
- Use alcohol-free or Biotene mouthwash.
- Avoid acidic and starchy foods.
- Quit smoking and drinking.
- Consider an electric toothbrush to combat your manual dexterity problems.
- Brush and floss daily.
- Use professionally made whitening treatments.
- Keep an eye out for any symptoms indicating poor oral health so you can fix them immediately.
- Build a solid oral care routine and stick to it.
These proactive tips will help you avoid any dental problems. Also, you can set up daily reminders to keep track of your routines.
When To Call The Doctor
No matter how much you take care of your dental health, sometimes you’ll need to see your dentist for treatment. You know it’s time to see the doctor when you experience these things:
- Gum pain that makes it difficult to eat
- Aesthetic problems that affect your self-esteem
- Loss of tooth sensitivity
- Your teeth affect your general health through issues like gastrointestinal infections
- A dry mouth affects your nutrition and speech
- Loose dentures
- Persistent bad breath or halitosis
- Jaw-related issues
- Loss of feeling and taste
Remember, some dental issues, like gum disease, can be deadly if not treated properly. Therefore, you must visit your dentist regularly to spot and fix problems early on and before they turn for the worse. During your appointment, the dentist will do the following:
- Evaluate how effective your oral hygiene efforts are and give advice on areas to improve
- Check your dentures to ensure they still fit and aren’t overly stressing the teeth that support them
- Inspect for tooth decay and gum disease symptoms
- Assess your risk of developing any dental disease
- Screen you for oral cancer, which is common among seniors
- Recommend and prescribe fluoride, antibacterial rinses, or any other supplements to help lower your risk of tooth decay
During these checkups, remember to ask any questions you have.
Why The Risk Of Dental Health Issues Increases As You Age
You may notice an increase in the occurrence of dental health issues as time passes. Here are some of the reasons for that:
- Changes in your social life: As you age, you begin to socialize less. As a result, you might stop paying close attention to how you dress, take baths, and care for your teeth. Thus, without an active social life that motivates you to take care of yourself, you’ll likely develop dental problems.
- Forgetfulness or dementia: Memory loss occurs as you age, and you may forget to prioritize your oral hygiene. Remembering small things may be difficult, but you can solve this using apps or devices that can set reminders for you.
- Tobacco use: With continuous tobacco use, your mouth suffers the hit of harmful substances like tar and smoke. This makes you more likely to develop gum disease and cancers in your mouth and other surrounding structures. Also, nicotine causes teeth discoloration, which gets worse with age.
- Depression: Depression lowers your self-worth, making it hard to maintain a self-care routine. This can cause your dental hygiene to deteriorate.
- Not sticking to a routine: With age, it’s easy to fall out of routine. You don’t have a place to be or a schedule to follow; hence, your hygiene might suffer. Your oral hygiene may fall by the wayside with a disrupted routine, either by retirement or other factors.
- Receding of gums: It’s common for your gums to recede as you age. However, this exposes your teeth to health problems, like sensitivity. With this, you may see blood after brushing because of the exposed parts, and the resulting wounds can become infested by bacteria.
- Mobility and dexterity issues: When you’re young, brushing your teeth doesn’t seem to be a tiring physical activity. However, as you age, it might become more difficult to do. Your eye-hand coordination becomes poor, and your arm and wrist weaken, making it more challenging to manage simple hygiene procedures. This results in less motivation to clean up, pain during flossing, and poor results when brushing teeth
- Medications: A major part of getting older includes taking medications; however, most have dry mouth as a side effect. They decrease your saliva levels, leaving your mouth less moist and with no flushing action against bacteria. This increases your chances of gum disease and tooth decay.
Age changes many aspects of the body, and a simple morning routine becomes an activity filled with excruciating pain. Unfortunately, dental hygiene easily falls victim to these changes.
Benefits Of Good Oral Health As You Age
The following are the benefits of taking good care of your oral health as you age:
- Healthier lungs since they’re not penetrated by bacteria that travel from your mouth
- Lower risk of gum diseases, like gingivitis and periodontitis
- Reduced risk of heart attack
- Decreased risk of oral cancer
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Greater success at weight loss
- Reduced chances of getting Alzheimer’s
- Stronger fertility and healthier pregnancies
- Fresher breath
- Cost saving
Poor dental health is linked to stroke, diabetes, and cancer. That said, good oral hygiene improves overall health, quality of life, and confidence.
Aging may be a beautiful thing, but it opens you up to a host of oral health problems. This is mainly because of your daily life choices concerning your diet and oral hygiene. However, their severity declines depending on the maintenance and proactive measures you take. Essentially, you can slow down and minimize the effects of aging on your oral health, although you can’t stop them in their tracks. Therefore, be active with your dental care routines and checkups to ensure you keep these negative impacts at the bare minimum.